“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:11-14
Do you see the three primary themes in these verses? Joy, love, and laying down life. It is an interesting trio of items. Joy and love seem to make some sense, but where does laying down life come into the picture?
Jesus tells us that one of His goals for us is that we would have His joy so that our joy may be complete. Jesus’ joy is the perfect fellowship that is to come--with His Father and with his church. But there is more to it than that. He wants us to have His joy NOW. He wants us to experience Him in such a way that our lives look different--more joyful because of Him. He spoke what He spoke (and it is captured for us in Scripture) so that we might have access to that joy--real joy.
He then gives us a command to love one another as He has loved us. How has He loved us? He laid down his life for his friends. He is asking us to do the same thing. Sometimes that looks like sacrifice (see yesterday’s blog), or giving up our rights. Sometimes it may look like physical death. Sometimes it looks like taking the role of a servant and washing the dirty feet of your friends (see John 13).
Loving others is putting their needs and desires above your own. Love is patient and kind even when the situation feels as though it calls for things other than these virtues. Love does not boast, is not arrogant, and is not rude even when that feels like the natural thing to do in a fallen world. Through love, you give up the responses that seem sensible, not because of the person to whom the love is directed, but because of the friendship and love experienced in your own life in Jesus.
Joy is given so we might experience true life in Jesus. When we have that confidence, we are empowered to love others in all sorts of circumstances. As we put that love into action, we lay down our lives for the benefit of others. Consequently, joy is stirred up, leading to love which leads to further laying down of life.
Are you depending on the teachings of Jesus for your joy? Are you listening to what He said? Is that joy stirring your heart to love and sacrifice? These actions are not simply directed to those people with whom you have the best relationships. They are the mark of who we are in Jesus even to those we don’t like or don’t know.